State bul­lies refugees to re­turn to So­ma­lia – Amnesty re­port

‘They are caught be­tween a rock and a hard place. Kenyan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month, or they’ll be forced out’

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics - ADOW MO­HAMED @ad­owmo

Kenya is forc­ing thou­sands of So­mali refugees to go back to their war-torn home, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has said.

In the re­port re­leased yes­ter­day, the London-based rights group said gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have been threat­en­ing refugees to leave be­fore the Novem­ber 30 dead­line.

“The refugees are caught be­tween a rock and a hard place. Kenyan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month or they will be forced to leave with­out any as­sis­tance,” Amnesty In­ter­na­tional deputy di­rec­tor Michelle Kagari said.

AI said most refugees in­ter­viewed said they were only con­sid­er­ing leav­ing the camps be­cause of threats.

“These ac­tions con­tra­vene the gov­ern­ment’s as­sur­ances to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that it would en­sure all refugee repa­tri­a­tions are vol­un­tary and car­ried out in safety and dig­nity,” Kagari said.

In May, the In­te­rior min­istry said it would close the Dadaab camp be­cause it is a se­cu­rity threat. It also raised economic and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, in ad­di­tion to lack of sup­port from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. There are 280,000 refugees in Dadaaab, mostly So­ma­lis.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­searchers said they vis­ited Dadaab in Au­gust and in­ter­viewed 56 refugees in­di­vid­u­ally and held fo­cus groups with 35 more.

“Kenya’s in­creased re­stric­tions on So­mali refugees comes at a time of shock­ing fail­ures by rich coun­tries to ac­cept their fair share of re­spon­si­bil­ity. Rather than fo­cussing on re­turn­ing refugees to So­ma­lia, where they are at risk of fur­ther hu­man rights abuses. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should be work­ing with Kenya to en­sure longterm sus­tain­able so­lu­tions,” Kagari said.

She cited the in­crease of re­set­tle­ment places for the most vul­ner­a­ble refugees as well as Kenya guar­an­tee­ing refugees their rights and find­ing ways to in­te­grate them into host com­mu­ni­ties away from camps with the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to UNHCR data, only 34,900 refugees had re­turned home by last week, with 276,269 still in the camp. Since the start of the repa­tri­a­tion, 99 con­voys and 160 flights have left for So­ma­lia, 66,650 refugees have ap­proached the re­turn home help desks, while 66,252 have in­di­cated their de­sire to go back, the UN agency said.

AI said Kenya has re­ceived lim­ited sup­port from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Last year, 5,001 in­di­vid­u­als were re­set­tled from Kenya, with more than 3,500 of those go­ing to the USA. Only 671 vul­ner­a­ble refugees were re­set­tled in EU coun­tries. So far in 2016 there have been 1,648 de­par­tures to the USA and 118 to the EU.

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